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Monday, November 23, 2015

1A Research Project (SEE SCHEDULE for WED. 11/25)

Are you writing an argument? You are for this assignment.  Watch what some Harvard professors have to say about writing an argument. 

You can also watch the above video with Harvard professors
discussing writing an argument at this site. 

Looking for some statistics or reports? Try some of these sites. These are only a selection. Post in the comments section if you find more.

World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Council on Foreign Relations

National Security Council at The White House website.

U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics

White House Council of Economic Advisors 15 Economic Facts about Millenials

Television News
How's the research going? Could be better? 

Try these TV news sites: 60 MinutesPBS Frontline, and other PBS news programs. Here is an example from PBS Newshour on Students and robotics.

Why search and watch something broadcast on TV?

Chances are you'll find something pertinent to your topic at these sites. If you do, you might see the world you are researching better--you'll see people, places, examples of the concrete and the specific detail. And it will direct you to additional sources.

Check, too, some of the linked sites that appear on English with McCabe, at the right. "NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES & JOURNALS" and "FILM, TV & RADIO" are the ones to look for. 


Research Questions
Here's a good exercise I found re: research questions. It is Bedford's My Research Project. It encourages writers to develop research questions by asking the "what, why, when, where, who, how, would/could, [and] should" of their topic. By doing so, writers can better focus their topic, conduct research, organize an essay, and advance an argument. 

MLA & Annotated Bibliography
Purdue OWL is an excellent site for writers.  Here's two of their pages that will be helpful, in addition to what you find in your handbook and on the research assignment sheets: MLA Formatting and Style Guide and Annotated Bibliography.

(this is different than dates on Research Project sheet)

Mon. 11/2
Class Canceled

Wed. 11/4
DUE: Research Proposal & Annotated Bibliography Draft; A Writer’s Reference (reading to be assigned)
Mon. 11/9
DUE: Research Proposal & Annotated Bibliography
 FINAL Revision

Wed. 11/11   Veterans Day — Campus Closed

Mon. 11/16
Class was canceled

Wed. 11/18
DUE: Research Draft #2 (bring 2 copies)
A Writer’s Reference (reading to be assigned)

Mon. 11/23
DUE: Research Draft #3 (bring 2 copies)
A Writer’s Reference (reading to be assigned)

Wed. 11/25
DUE: Research Draft #4 (bring 2 copies)
Bring A Writer’s Reference to class

Thursday 11/26  Thanksgiving - Campus Closed

Mon. 11/30
DUE: Research FINAL Revision

Wed. 12/2
1984 (pages 1-29)

Mon. 12/7
1984 (pages 29-104)

Wed. 12/9
In-class essay re: 1984 (pages 1-104; Bring a blue book)

Final Exam Meeting 
Brief writing assignment

Mon./Wed. 9:15 a.m. class in C 269 will meet for final exam on Wed., Dec. 16, 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Mon./Wed. 1:45 p.m. class in C 257 will meet for final exam on Wed., Dec. 16, 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Revision Questions for Research Papers

When reviewing the essay draft, make your editorial comments directly on the draft and, in some cases, answer the questions below on the back of the student’s essay. Once you have completed these steps, which should take about 20 minutes, discuss your remarks with the writer.

1. Is the essay title sufficiently focused? If not, offer a suggested title.
2. Does the first paragraph clearly introduce the subject under consideration? Is the theme of the work presented? Are there words (or sentences) in the first paragraph that can be removed (or edited) in order to make the introduction more concise and clear?  does the writer offer a surprising statistic, anecdote, illustration, or provocative question?  Should they?

3. What is the essay's thesis? Is it specific enough for the length of the essay? Where does it appear in the essay? (A thesis is an argument and it is the thread that runs from the beginning to the end of the essay.) Copy what you think the writer’s thesis is on the back of his or her essay.

4. Is the issue under consideration clearly summarized near the beginning of the essay? Should anything be added? On the other hand, is the issue summarized at too great of a length? If either is true, make your suggested revisions directly on the draft.

5. Are quotes from the original work(s) used judiciously? If not, how could they be improved? (Note: no more than 25% of the essay should be comprised of quotations.)

6. What are the best examples in support of the writer's thesis? Can they be more fully developed? How? What other examples could the writer provide?

7. Is there sufficient analysis of the examples? Or does the writer let the examples “speak” for themselves or "prove" the essay's thesis? If this is true, suggest where the writer needs to provide a fuller analysis of the example(s) provided.

8. Is the essay unified? Do paragraph topic sentences connect to the thesis? If not, what are the examples or discussions unrelated to the essay's thesis? If there are sections where the essay lacks focus, suggest an alternative presentation of the thesis and/or the examples so the essay achieves coherence.

9. Is the conclusion earned? Or does it introduce a new topic or idea not relevant to the essay’s thesis?

10. Are rules of citation followed within the essay’s text? If not, mark them for correction by the writer. Do all in-text citations appear on the Works Cited page? Review the sources—whether articles from a newspaper, magazine or scholarly journal, or book—on the Works Cited page. Are all of these sources cited within the essay? Does the Works Cited page follow MLA guidelines?

11. For the writer’s attention, mark errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

1B: Reading Assignments

Tuesday 11/17
Class was canceled

Thursday 11/19
In Literature: O’Connor (276); In Carver collection: Carver, "The Student's Wife" (34);
Bring Carver collection and Literature to class.

Tues. 11/24
Be Prepared for Quizzes on all Carver Readings
Carver:  “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” (170) & "Where I'm Calling From" (278).
Bring Carver collection to this class meeting and all subsequent Carver meetings.

Thurs. 11/26

Tues. 12 /1
Carver: “Chef’s House” (297) “A Small Good Thing” (376)

Thurs. 12/3
Carver: “Cathedral” (356)

Tues. 12/8
Carver: “Intimacy” (444); “Elephant” (472)

Thurs. 12/10
In-class essay re: Carver (Bring a Blue Book)

Final meeting
Tuesday, December 15th, 10:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Bring Literature. Brief in-class writing assignment re: selected poetry.

1B: Raymond Carver (1938-1988)

Raymond Carver (1938-88) said in a 1977 interview,
 “I am beginning to feel like a cigarette with a body attached to it.”
Photograph by Bob Adelman, Syracuse, New York, 1984.

"A writer ought to speak about things that are important to him. . . . I tend to go back to the time and the people I knew well when I was younger and who made a very strong impression on me . . . . most of the people in my stories are poor and bewildered, that's true. The economy, that's important . . . I don't feel I'm a political writer and yet I've been attacked by right-wing critics in the U.S.A. who blame me for not painting a more smiling picture of America, for not being optimistic enough, for writing stories about the people who don't succeed. But these lives are as valid as those of the go-getters. Yes, I take unemployment, money problems, and marital problems as givens in life. People worry about their rent, their children, their home life. That's basic. That's how 80-90 percent, or God knows how many people live. I write stories about a submerged population, people who don't always have someone to speak for them. I'm sort of a witness, and, besides, that's the life I myself lived for a long time. I don't see myself as a spokesman but as a witness to these lives. I'm a writer."
--Raymond Carver

The above remarks by Carver were taken from an interview he did in spring 1987. For the complete text of this interview and one other with Carver, view this link.

Things to do when you're reading Carver

One:  [Recommended.] Watch the videos, above, about Carver.
Two: [Recommended.] Read the Carver pages at the Poetry Foundation.
Three: [Recommended.Read Carver's interview with the Paris Review, from Summer 1983.
Four: [Recommended]:  Read articles, take your pick, on Carver that are linked at The New York Times.
Five: [Recommended]: Visit The New Yorker's Raymond Carver page.  The magazine has published many of Carver's stories and remembrances of him over the years.

The draft of the story, "Beginners," which became "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," can be found right hereIt shows Gordon Lish's edits. There is also a brief sample of Lish's edits here.

Lish's edits are an excellent example of the dynamics, or call it the conflict, that exist between writer and editor. See a discussion of Carver's July 8, 1980 letter to Lish, protesting his recent editorial cuts (some as much as 70%) of his collection of stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Letters from Carver to Lish, including the July 8, 1980 Carver letter to Lish, can be found here.

Now that you are an expert on "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," I invite you to read "What We Talk About When We Talk About Doughnuts," from The New Yorker,  May 10, 1999.

Raymond Carver, Summer 1969. Photograph by Gordon Lish

Six: The Library of America publishes, as they say, "Authoritative texts of great American writing." They have a page on Carver. They also made a statement on Gordon Lish's editing of "Beginners"/"What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" and a letter, a tortured letter, by Carver with a plea to Lish to return the story more closely to the original. The Library of America's statement and Carver's letter appears here.
Seven:  Find "The Bath" at this site.
Eight: Find an early version of "So Much Water So Close to Home" right here. Please note, however, that this version incorrectly includes a question mark ("?") at the end of the story; it should end with a period.

Redesign of Raymond Carver book covers by Todd Hido

Nine: Carver's stories have inspired a number of films.  They include  Short Cuts by Robert Altman (and a cast of dozens, at least).  Go here to read an interview with filmmaker Altman and poet Tess Gallagher, Carver's widow. Here's Roger Ebert's review of Short Cuts. A list of other Carver-inspired films can be found at IMDB.

Ten: Want to learn more about Carver and his editor, Gordon Lish? Read this from The New York Review of Books.   Thanks to former English 1B student Oshin Edralin, we have a YouTube video to watch about Lish and Carver. Here it is:

Eleven: [Recommended]:  For poetry by Carver go to this site at the Poetry Foundation and click the tab for "Poems, Articles and More." Poetry Soup has a pretty good sample of his poetry, too, as does All Poetry.

Carver described, in a Paris Review interview from the Summer 1983 issue, his writing process and the hard but pleasurable work involved in doing revisions: 

"Much of this work time, understand, is given over to revising and rewriting. There's not much that I like better than to take a story that I've had around the house for a while and work it over again. It's the same with the poems I write. I'm in no hurry to send something off just after I write it, and I sometimes keep it around the house for months doing this or that to it, taking this out and putting that in. It doesn't take that long to do the first draft of the story, that usually happens in one sitting, but it does take a while to do the various versions of the story. I've done as many as twenty or thirty drafts of a story. Never less than ten or twelve drafts."

For The Paris Review's complete interview with Carver, visit this page.

Group work at its finest? Or a staged photo op? From left to right, clockwise: Kary, Elizabeth, Elia, 
Nancy, Sara, and Stephanie, take on Carver's "Fever" at Shatford Library. (June 1, 2011.)

The Carver Gang discussing "What We Talk About When We Talk About Caffeine."
Clockwise, left to right: Stephanie, Tina, Sara, Kary, Brian, Some Guy, Kim and Nancy. June 8, 2011.

In the Paris Review interview, published in the Summer 1983 issue, Carver also discussed the purpose and pleasure of fiction:

"The days are gone, if they were ever with us, when a novel or a play or a book of poems could change people's ideas about the world they live in or even about themselves. Maybe writing fiction about particular kinds of people living particular kinds of lives will allow certain areas of life to be understood a little better than they were understood before. But I'm afraid that's it, at least as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps it's different in poetry. . . . Good fiction is partly a bringing of the news from one world to another. That end is good in and of itself, I think. But changing things through fiction, changing somebody's political affiliation or the political system itself, or saving the whales or the redwood trees, no. Not if these are the kinds of changes you mean. And I don't think it should have to do any of these things, either. It doesn't have to do anything. It just has to be there for the fierce pleasure we take in doing it, and the different kind of pleasure that's taken in reading something that's durable and made to last, as well as beautiful in and of itself. Something that throws off these sparks—a persistent and steady glow, however dim."

For The Paris Review's complete interview with Carver, visit this page.

"I'm not a 'born' poet. I don't know if I'm a 'born' anything except a white American male,Carver said of himself in the Paris Review interview from the Summer 1983 issue. Photograph by Marion Ettlinger for Carver's 1985 poetry collection, Where Water Comes Together With Other Water.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

1B: Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)

Let's start here with Flannery O'Connor writing to a literature professor.   She must have been a very patient woman. From Open Culture: "Flannery O’Connor to Lit Professor: 'My Tone Is Not Meant to Be Obnoxious. I’m in a State of Shock.'”

Want to learn more about Flannery O'Connor?  Who doesn't? Check out some of these websites devoted to her: Perspectives in American Literature, and the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

One of the most extensive websites concerning O'Connor is Comforts of Home: The Flannery O'Connor Repository.  There you will find links to online publications about O'Connor, study guides and biographical information. The New York Times also has a page on O'Connor.  Find an Atlantic magazine review of Brad Gooch's biography of O'Connor, Flanneryhere. More information about O'Connor's life and her writing is forthcoming because of Emory University's  acquisition of her letters, drafts, and journals. These materials will be available to the public.

O'Connor's self-portrait from 1953.

O'CONNOR and art 
from The Paris Review
Flannery O'Connor and the Habit of Art
April 30, 2012 | by Kelly Gerald

"'For the writer of fiction,' Flannery O’Connor once said, 'everything has its testing point in the eye, and the eye is an organ that eventually involves the whole personality, and as much of the world as can be got into it.' This way of seeing she described as part of the 'habit of art,' a concept borrowed from the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. She used the expression to explain the way of seeing that the artist must cultivate, one that does not separate meaning from experience.

The sketches reproduced here are from Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons,
 work that she did in high school and college. 

"The visual arts became one of her favorite touchstones for explaining this process. Many disciplines could help your writing, she said, but especially drawing: 'Anything that helps you to see. Anything that makes you look.' Why was this emphasis on seeing and vision so important to her in explaining how fiction works? Because she came to writing from a background in the visual arts, where everything the artist communicates is apprehended, first, by the eye.

"She had developed the habits of the artist, that way of seeing and observing and representing the world around her, from years of working as a cartoonist. She discovered for herself the nuances of practicing her craft in a medium that involved communicating with images and experimenting with the physical expressions of the body in carefully choreographed arrangements. Her natural proclivity for capturing the humorous character of real people and concrete situations, two rudimentary elements she later asserted form the genesis of any story, found expression in her prolific drawings and cartoons long before she began her career as a fiction writer.

"Beginning at about age five, O’Connor drew and made cartoons, created small books, and wrote stories and comical sketches, often accompanied by her own illustrations. Although her interest in writing was equally evident, by the time she reached high school her abilities as a cartoonist had moved to the forefront. After her first cartoon was published in the fall of 1940, her work appeared in nearly every issue of her high-school and college newspapers, as well as yearbooks—roughly a hundred between 1940 and 1945—and most of these were produced from linoleum block cuts. When she graduated from the Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville in 1945, she was a celebrated local cartoonist preparing for a career in journalism that would, she hoped, combine work as a professional writer and cartoonist."

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: read the remainder of this essay.

O'CONNOR'S influence:
O'Connor is important to many writers, so they frequently mention her in their interviews and essays, T.C. Boyle among them. Here is what he had to say about her: 

"[L]et us not forget Flannery O'Connor. I discovered her as an undergraduate (for an adjective-rich description of your not-so-humble narrator at the time, see above). I was in a literature class--the Contemporary Short Story or some such. And she, the most remarkable American writer of the '50s, was where she so assuredly deserved to be--enshrined in a fat anthology. The story was 'A Good Man is Hard to Find,' and it remains my favorite of all time, though certain pieces by the Three Cs (Cheever, Carver, and Coover) give it a run for the money. This story seems to me perfect in its radical synthesis of the horrific and the hilarious. I've read it a hundred times and I still laugh aloud at the scheming and senile grandmother, the howling brats, and the henpecked Bailey, and find the scene in which the grandmother's cat (Pitty Sing) attaches itself to the back of Bailey's neck, thus fomenting the accident, both chilling and (yes) wickedly funny. What ensues is a morality play that chills me right down to the black pit of my black heart. Accident rules the world, accident and depravity, and I don't have O'Connor's faith to save me from all that." (source: Reinhard Donat's webpage.)

O'Connor's notebooks. Photograph by Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

"Now I am perfectly willing to believe Flannery O’Connor when she said, and she wasn’t kidding, that the modern world is a territory largely occupied by the devil. No one doubts the malevolence abroad in the world. But the world is also deranged. . . . the novelist is entitled to a degree of artifice and cunning, as Joyce said; or the 'indirect method,' as Kierkegaard said; or the comic-bizarre for shock therapy, as Flannery O’Connor did." 
-- Walker Percy

"Flannery O’Connor was probably the biggest influence in my mature writing life. I didn’t discover her until I was at Arkansas, and I didn’t read her until I was around twenty-five, twenty-six. She was so powerful, she just knocked me down. I still read Flannery and teach her. . . . [I read] “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and then I read everything. . . . I thought the author was a guy. I thought it was a guy for three years until someone clued me in very quietly at Arkansas. “It’s a woman, Barry.” Her work is so mean. The women are treated so harshly. The misogyny and religion. It was so foreign and Southern to me. She certainly was amazing."
-- Barry Hannah

"I take comfort in the way that, say, Flannery O’Connor would tend to revisit the same situations without losing much in the way of her power or variety. You know, you have the surly daughter who is driven nuts by her mother’s cheer and simplistic piety and common sense, and a shiftless handyman around somewhere. There are recurring patterns in her work, but she manages to refresh them each time out. I suppose I hope to achieve something like that. . . . But to get back to Flannery O’Connor, what kind of experience did she have, afterall? She spent, what, one year away from her farm in Milledgeville? Yet her stories are full of life and drama and real humanity, and it’s because she kept her eyes open."
-- Tobias Wolfe

Bruce Springsteen was asked by The New York Times Book Review, October 30, 2014: "If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

"One would be difficult, but the short stories of Flannery O’Connor landed hard on me. You could feel within them the unknowability of God, the intangible mysteries of life that confounded her characters, and which I find by my side every day. They contained the dark Gothicness of my childhood and yet made me feel fortunate to sit at the center of this swirling black puzzle, stars reeling overhead, the earth barely beneath us."
-- Bruce Springsteen

"A writer like Flannery O’Connor, in stories like 'Good Country People' or 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find,' can not only make you laugh aloud, but make you cringe too. And make you think. To engage your humor and your emotions, that’s quite a trick. I’d like to think that I’m able to do that, to keep the reader off balance—is this the universe of the comedy or the tragedy? or some unsettling admixture of the two?—to go beyond mere satire into something more emotionally devastating, and gratifying. If that ain’t art, I don’t know what is."
-- T. Coraghessan Boyle

"My Dear God: A young writer’s prayers" by O'Connor was published in The New YorkerSeptember 16, 2013. The magazine introduces O'Connor's words by saying, how these "excerpts from her journal chart her thoughts on the subject of faith and prayer, and her hopes for her fiction."

A review of O'Connor's A Prayer Journal can also be found at NPR. Listen to or read the transcript of the November 20, 2013 broadcast here. 

Now for some words from O'Connor herself.  I invite you to read her address "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction" from 1960. There is also an audio clip of O'Connor reading it aloud here. It is in this address that O'Connor says the following: "The social sciences have cast a dreary blight on the public approach to fiction. When I first began to write, my own particular bête noire was that mythical entity, The School of Southern Degeneracy. Every time I heard about The School of Southern Degeneracy, I felt like Br'er Rabbit stuck on the Tarbaby. There was a time when the average reader read a novel simply for the moral he could get out of it, and however naive that may have been, it was a good deal less naive than some of the more limited objectives he now has. Today novels are considered to be entirely concerned with the social or economic or, psychological forces that they will by necessity exhibit, or with those details of daily life that are for the good novelist only means to some deeper end."

When you get a chance, and I hope it is soon, read her story "Good Country People". Funny, dark, tragic and wise: all the things another great O'Connor story delivers.

Milledgeville, GA is the town where O'Connor grew up and returned to as an adult.
 It also serves as the inspiration and landscape for many of her stories.   
A writer for The New York Times visited O'Connor's Georgia and shares his observations of what he found:

"THE sun was white above the trees, and sinking fast. I was a few miles past Milledgeville, Ga., somewhere outside of Toomsboro, on a two-lane highway that rose and plunged and twisted through red clay hills and pine woods. . . . Somewhere outside Toomsboro is where, in O'Connor's best-known short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” a family has a car accident and a tiresome old grandmother has an epiphany.

"O'Connor's short stories and novels are set in a rural South where people know their places, mind their manners and do horrible things to one another. It's a place that somehow hovers outside of time, where both the New Deal and the New Testament feel like recent history. It's soaked in violence and humor, in sin and in God. He may have fled the modern world, but in O'Connor's he sticks around, in the sun hanging over the tree line, in the trees and farm beasts, and in the characters who roost in the memory like gargoyles. It's a land haunted by Christ — not your friendly hug-me Jesus, but a ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of the mind, pursuing the unwilling."

from "In Search of Flannery O'Connor" by Lawrence Downes, The New York Times, Feb. 4, 2007.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Listen to Stephen Colbert read O'Connor's "The Enduring Chill."

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: You can listen to O'Connor read "A Good Man is Hard to Find." It was recorded in 1959 at Vanderbilt University. Note how O'Connor's reading draws attention to the story's humor.

O'Connor loved birds, keeping many species on her farm in Milledgeville, Georgia.
   She was especially fond of  "the king of birds," the peacock, pictured with her, above.

1B: Flannery O'Connor & a '49 Mercury: Hearse-Like?

Last seen in PCC parking lot.  The Misfit at the wheel. Flannery O'Connor in the backseat.  David Lindley & El Rayo-X on the radio blasting "Mercury Blues."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

1B: Arthur Miller (1915-2005) & Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller: younger (at left); older (at right).
The New York Times has an extensive archive of articles on Arthur Miller.  Click here  to see their many reports, slide shows, and videos on him, from reviews to interviews to a celebration of his life in the theater.   

Miller also appeared on the Charlie Rose show where he offered his thoughts on what makes a great playwright.  With a little searching you can find many other interviews with Miller on YouTube.

Here is a wonderful video, thanks to a great find by Rosario Anguiano. It's A Conversation on Writing with Arthur Miller, and he talks about Death of a Salesman during the first three minutes of the program. It is all worth watching. Here is another: a 60 Minutes report on Arthur Miller.

As you can probably see, the above video has been "terminated." But give Arthur Miller on 60 Minutes (Rewind) a try. It may still be working when you click on this link.

You can also find Miller interviews in print. Here is one, an interview with Miller, that I found in The Paris Review, Summer 1966 issue. Miller was also interviewed by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2002, and the Michigan Quarterly Review in 1998Miller was featured on a PBS American Masters Program. Go here to read their biography of him.

Brief notes about the characters in Death of a Salesman:
Willy Loman (said to be 60, pages 6&8; 63, page 42)
Linda Loman ("not even 60")
Happy (son of Willy and Linda, 32)
Biff (son of Willy and Linda, 34)
Bernard (son of Charley; Biff's age)
The Woman (Willy has an affair with her)
Charley ("Uncle Charley," next-door neighbor; friend, not related)
Uncle Ben (Willy's brother)
Howard Wagner (Willy's boss; the son of Willy's former boss)
Jenny (Charley's secretary)
Stanley (waiter)
Miss Forsythe (woman at restaurant)
Letta (woman at restaurant)

English 1B students: Print and Read:
Arthur Miller's "Tragedy and the Common Man." In this 1949 essay,  Miller makes clear the relationship between a character like Willy Loman and the more classical (and commonly accepted) tragic figures from Greek playwrights and Shakespeare.  BRING YOUR COPY--print it out--of "Tragedy and the Common Man" to class. You need not read it before class. Skimming it would be smart, however, 

If the above link to "Tragedy and the Common Man" does not work, try this link to get a copy of Miller's essay. It was posted by Prof. Eric Hibbison of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA.

If you've read "Tragedy and the Common Man" you've seen Miller's remark about the Oedipus and Orestes complexes. Thanks to the urging of Ricardo Paredes and Rafael Azizyan it's time to offer a briefing on said complexes.

These complexes begin with Greek tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides. Sophocles' tragedy Oedipus Tyrannus, the story of Oedipus, is about a man who fulfills a prophecy by unknowingly murdering his father and marrying his mother.  Sigmund Freud saw in this tale an example of a repressed personality passionately drawn to the parent of the opposite sex and severe hatred for the same sex parent (e.g., son loves mother, son hates father).

The Orestes complex is the opposite: in the story of Euripedes' Electra a man named Orestes kills his mother (with Electra's assistance) to avenge his father's death.  Freud took this play to serve as a template in describing the son whose extreme violent nature is directed against his mother while his deepest affection is reserved for his father. Today, with reference to both complexes, the offspring examined in this diagnosis may be a son or a daughter.

Maureen Dowd of The New York Times looks at the father-son relationship in the play and in our lives with Mike Nichols, stage and film director, and director of the Salesman production with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy. Here is The New York Times review of the production. NPR also did an interview with Hoffman about his performance; go to this page to listen to the interview.

Taking their bow: Linda Emond, left, as Linda Loman, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy.

Finally, you may wish to turn to the web pages of Prof. Barbara McManus, of the College of New Rochelle, and her discussion of Aristotle's definition of tragedy. Note how Aristotle calls for a character to be "renowned and prosperous."  What would Miller say to this?  Willy is neither, of course.  Miller's explanatory argument is not just for the drama critics and audiences of 1949, it may be for Aristotle too.

If you wish further help understanding the meaning of tragedy in dramatic literature, check Dr. L. Kip Wheeler's website for definitions of tragedy, tragic flaw and tragic hero.

For a discussion regarding the idea of a flashback in contrast to the past being concurrent to the present read Miller's remarks below. He made them in his interview with the National Endowment for the Arts:

"[Death of a Salesman] begins with its action, and there are no transitions. It is a kind of frontal attack on the conditions of [Willy Loman's] life, without any piddling around with techniques. The basic technique is very straightforward. It is told like a dream. In a dream, we are simply confronted with various loaded symbols, and where one is exhausted, it gives way to another. In Salesman, there is the use of a past in the present. It has been mistakenly called flashbacks, but there are no flashbacks in that play. It is a concurrence [my emphasis] of a past with the present, and that's a bit different."

In fall 2012 Manuel Gonzalez asserted that flashbacks do occur in the play,  after all.  I attempted to explain Miller's position by quoting William Faulkner's position re: the past: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Explain why you agree (or not) that Faulkner's words describe Miller's characterization of Willy.

These three clips, below, from three very different Death of a Salesman productions:

Fredric March starred as Willy Loman in the 1951 film
version of Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller had
no control of the screenplay and was unhappy with
the film, which cut a number of scenes from his play.

Brian Dennehy was honored twice, a Tony Award (1999) and the
 Laurence Olivier Award (2005), for his stage performances
 of Willy Loman in New York and London, respectively.

Lee J. Cobb brought Willy Loman to the world in the 1949 stage premiere
 of Death of a Salesman. Here Cobb is--some believe he was the
 quintessential Willy--in the 1966 television broadcast.

Miller reads excerpts from Death of a Salesman.  This recording was made in Feb.1955 in New York City at the 92nd Street Y, home to many literary events. If the recording does not play, go to the 92nd Street Y archive to listen.

Questions re: Death of a Salesman: All Miller quotes below are taken from his “Tragedy and the Common Man” essay.

We will form groups for discussion regarding these questions. One group member will lead the discussion, one will take notes and two others will prepare to represent the group for a class discussion.  One set of notes per group will be collected at the end of the discussion. Answer the questions in RED for group discussions. Along with your answers refer to specific pages within the play. Include these page numbers with the notes that you will give to me.

1. What does Miller mean when he says in his essay, “we are often held to be below tragedy or tragedy above us”? Does he agree with this belief? Do you? Why?

2. How is Willy Loman, as Miller writes, unwilling to “remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful status”? Does Willy’s family—Linda, Biff and Happy—share this trait with him or not?  Explain.

3. Miller discusses “the underlying fear of being displaced” and its connection to tragedy.  How does this quality apply to Willy Loman?

4. Miller argues how “tragedy requires the finest appreciation by the writer of cause and effect.” Offer examples from Death of a Salesman that illustrate his claim. 

5. What is the difference between a hallucination, a dream, and a remembrance? Is Willy inhabiting a world of hallucinations or dreams? Neither? Are his remembrances mostly accurate, or not? Explain with specific references to Ben, the Woman, and Biff.

6. Why is it difficult to follow the action? Why is Miller telling things in such, some might say, an unconventional fashion? Time is all over the place. (Some students have asked.)

7. How do each of Willy's family members react to Willy's  planned suicide?  What does their reaction--whether to confront, ignore, or be gentle--reveal about their character? 

8.  Willy favors Biff over Happy.  Why?  Is it because Biff is a talented athlete, the oldest, or reflects the nature of a succession in a powerful family?  Explain.

9.  Some members of the audience see Willy as suffering some sort of nervous disorder or mental disability.  If this is so, can Willy still be a tragic hero as Miller wants us to believe he is? When answering the question, recall Miller's assertion that "the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing--his sense of personal dignity [my emphasis.] From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his "rightful" position in his society."

10.  We know that the gods are present in Greek tragedies. Royal figures appear in Shakespeare.  Are they present in Death of a Salesman?  Offer examples that demonstrate that this is true.

The 1949 premiere of Miller's Death of a Salesman,
 with Mildred Dunnock, Lee J . Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, and Cameron Mitchell.

Additional Questions from previous classes: 

1.  What is the importance of music playing at the opening and end of Act I? (Jeremy)

2. Why do you think that Willy is so stubborn? Why does he resist change? (Eunice)

3. Why does Willy demand that Linda not speak? (Felipe)

4.  Why does Biff tell his mother to dye her hair? 

5. Willy says, "That's a million dollar idea!" What is Willy revealing about himself when he says these words? (Shogo)

6. Why does Willy want to kill himself? (Dara)

7. Why does Happy not have the respect of his family? (Sydnee)

8. Reread the description of Feminist criticism in our literature textbook.  Apply its features to the character of Linda.

The Many Productions of Death of a Salesman
There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of productions of Death of a Salesman since its 1949 premiere.  Here are some memorable ones.

"A Yiddish play with the title Toyt fun a Salesman opened at the Parkway Theater in Brooklyn early in 1951. As most of the audience recognized from the name alone, the show was a translation of Arthur Miller’s drama Death of a Salesman. It seemed a mere footnote to the premiere production, which had completed its triumphal run on Broadway several months earlier, having won the Pulitzer Prize." A photograph of the production appears below.  (from The New York Times, May 18, 2012)

Alfredo Valente/Associated Press

Gene Lockhart, center, playing Willy Loman in the 1949 original production

 of “Death of a Salesman,” by Arthur Miller. (from The New York Times, May 18, 2012)

Philip Seymour Hoffman starred as Willy Loman in a New York production of Death of a Salesman in Spring 2012. See "Searching for the Life of a Salesman," The New York Times, March 8, 2012.  Maureen Dowd, also of the Times, talks to its director Mike Nichols about the significance of the father-son relationship in her article "How Oedipus Wrecks."

A scene from the 2012 Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, with, from left,
Andrew Garfield, Finn Wittrock, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Linda Emond.

The South Coast Repertory (SCR) theatre in Costa Mesa, CA production of Death of a Salesman ran August-September 2013. Go to the SCR site for more information. The Los Angeles Times also profiled Charlie Robinson, who starred as Willy Loman.

Charlie Robinson as Willy Loman in the August-September 2013
 South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, production of Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller with 1983 Chinese cast of Death of A Salesman.  Ruocheng Ying played Willy Loman in the production staged at the Peoples Art Theatre in Beijing. Photograph by Inge Morath. Read about Miller's recollections of the production here.

Image from a 2012 Australian production of Death of a Salesman, where its connection to American culture is apparent, it was said to be "more relevant to Australia than ever." Read about the production here.